Definition of general practice
General practice refers to the totality of general practice as an organisation including:
- general practitioners
- practice managers
- primary health nurses
- administrative staff and other health professionals who work in a practice.
The role of general practice in Victoria
General practice plays a central role in the delivery of healthcare services in Victoria.
General practice is the primary point of initial healthcare for most Victorian.
In 2013–14, 83.4 per cent of people (aged 15 years and over) in Victoria saw a general practitioner in the previous 12 months (ABS 2014).
Over 90 per cent of general practitioners work in the private sector (Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee 2005), though they can move between private and publicly funded roles on a daily basis.
General practitioners in rural Victoria often provide the majority of medical care in rural health services, and a significant amount of care in state-funded rural health services (Department of Health and Human Services 2013).
This may include acute, obstetric and anaesthetist care as well as urgent after-hours care.
General practice is changing
General practice has undergone rapid change, particularly in the last 20 years.
Important changes include:
- increasing consultation complexity associated with an ageing population and the rising prevalence of chronic illness
- an increasingly multidisciplinary workforce – general practice teams incorporate general practitioners, primary health nurses, allied health practitioners, practice management, administrative support, and networks of external providers such as other medical specialists
- continuous quality improvement through a structured accreditation process introduced in the 1990s, with 90 per cent of general practitioners now working in accredited practices (Australian Medical Association 2012)
- increasing practice size and the corporatisation of practice
- increasing emphasis on person-centred care – a focus on care partnerships between clinicians and care recipients that focus on the needs of the person seeking care rather than fitting them into a pre-ordained model of care
- health care homes a new approach to chronic illness care in Australia in which patients can voluntarily enrol with a general practice who will coordinate all of their chronic illness care.
The importance of collaboration
Successful partnerships between the state-funded healthcare and the general practice sector are integral to coordinated patient care and critical to the successful achievement of many Department of Health and Human Services program objectives.
The nature of these partnerships will vary according to purpose.
For example, relationships may be direct with general practices themselves, or may focus on policy development and program implementation with general practice representative organisations.
See the case studies for more information.
Addressing the health and human services needs of vulnerable members of the community is a priority for the government.
This is particularly important in relation to clients for whom the state has responsibility for, such as children and young people living in out-of-home care and people who have been clients of the mental health treatment system who are on a path to recovery.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Patient experiences in Australia: states and territories 2013–14
Australian Medical Association 2012, General practice facts
Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee 2005, The general practice workforce in Australia: supply and requirements to 2013, Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee, Canberra.
Department of Health and Human Services 2013, Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012–2022: Rural and Regional Health Plan, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.